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Argentina lay 2006 World Cup foundations

August 26, 2004 18:56 IST
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Favourites Argentina, one game away from their first Olympic soccer title, are laying the foundations for a new era of international success in Greece.

They have reached Saturday's final against Paraguay by scoring 16 goals without reply in five games and Carlos Tevez, who has recently signed a new four-year contract with Boca Juniors, has scored seven of them.

This stunning record barely does justice to Argentina's domination of the tournament based on excellent preparation, fitness, skill and organisation. In a team that plays 3-4-3, Tevez is the undoubted jewel at the apex of the attack.

A chunky, powerful goalscorer, he is just as at home in a more creative role. "He is a very special and valuable player," said coach Marcelo Bielsa after Argentina swept aside Italy 3-0 in Tuesday's semi-final.

"But we are, more than anything else, a team."

The squad, bidding for Argentina's first Olympic gold since 1952, have been together since June preparing for the Copa America, where they lost to world champions Brazil in the final.

At the World Cup in 2002, too many of Bielsa's experienced players did not like his work ethic and system. This dynamic Olympic side looks capable of impressing not only against Paraguay but also in Germany at the 2006 World Cup.

In defence Roberto Ayala of Valencia and Gabriel Heinze of Manchester United, two of the team's three over-age players, have provided experience. Heinze has been particularly impressive on the left with his anticipation and distribution.

In midfield, Javier Mascherano of River Plate makes up for his lack of maturity with clever reading of the play and robust tackling. Against Italy, he subdued AC Milan's Andrea Pirlo.

Mascherano's consistency in the central holding role allows creative midfielders Andres D'Allesandro and Luis Gonzalez to interchange positions and dictate the play. Gonzalez struck a thrilling 30-metre goal on the run against Italy.

In such company, the team's other veteran Cristian 'Kily' Gonzalez of Inter Milan is rarely under pressure in his role on the left. Tevez is flanked by two wide-raiding forwards, hard-working Mauro Rosales and Cesar Delgado.

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